A prominent member of New Mexico’s startup community is the new director of economic development for the city of Albuquerque following the former leader’s departure in September.
Charles Ashley III, founder of Cultivating Coders, which provides technical training to K-12 schools and adult learners in under-resourced areas, was appointed by Mayor Tim Keller Tuesday. Ashley will start his role at the beginning of February.
As the new director of the Economic Development Department, Ashley is tasked with bringing new businesses to the city while supporting existing companies.
“I believe in this community,” Ashley told the Journal. “I’ve been here 15 years and it’s a place I’ve invested in not just monetarily. … Having been offered such a prestigious position from Mayor Keller is extremely humbling and I’m honored.”
Ashley said his experience at the helm of a startup company has allowed him to see how businesses operate on every level – from the executive down to janitorial duties.
“I think that experience is going to allow me to go into this new role with the ability to be agile and flexible, but also hungry and aggressive,” Ashley said. “That’s the nature of most business owners. … Your ambition, your hunger, your drive, those things are usually what … puts you in that entrepreneur or business owner box. So, I’m excited to see how that translates into the government space.”
Ashley’s time at Cultivating Coders, he said, also allowed him to invest in young people and marginalized communities, something he hopes to continue as the new director through workforce development programs.
“My passion has always been going above and beyond when in regards to overlooked communities, right, so that passion won’t change,” he said.
Aside from his work as a business owner, Ashley has worked as the Bernalillo County Economic Development Department’s film liaison and marketing specialist, and has served on multiple board of directors, including: the U.S. Eagle Federal Credit Union Board and Learning Alliance, Dream BIG, New Mexico AIDS Services, Albuquerque Youth Basketball League Board, Albuquerque Sol Advisory Council, Mayor Richard Berry’s Deep Dive Council for Arts & Culture, and Mayor Tim Keller’s Education Transition Team.
As the new director, Ashley said he wants to first understand the department and the mayor’s goals in order to build relationships.
“The real overarching goal right now would be researching, relationships, and then creating a plan off of that,” he said.
Ashley’s appointment comes four months after the former director, Synthia Jaramillo, left the position for a role at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Jaramillo led the department for four years.
“Albuquerque is entering a promising time for sustainable, diverse economic growth, and we look forward to having Charles lead our department through it,” Keller wrote in a statement. “His work as a business owner, advocate, and partner to the City over the years has created opportunities for folks from all walks of life, and we’re fortunate to have him continuing that mission with us.”